Monday, March 25, 2013

On Behalf of our Cultivating a More Complete Moral Outlook

(This is a continued reflection on a-moral situations.)

   In the fourth meditation Descartes writes, "When no reason inclines me in one direction rather than another, I have a feeling of indifference—that is, of its not mattering which way I go—and that is the poorest kind of freedom. What it displays is freedom, considered not as a perfection but rather as a lack of knowledge—a kind of negation.  If I always saw clearly what was true and good, I should never have to spend time thinking about what to believe or do; and then I would be wholly free although I was never in a state of indifference."
   If we consider, with Kant, that our freedom is recognized as a postulate whenever we are cognizing our duty, then the passage just quoted from the Meditations can be thought in terms of a life lived where we are always cognizing some duty and so constantly engaged as free beings.  This state of constant and complete moral determination doesn't imply that we are always acting out of duty, but that we always have something moral to be doing in every case.  If we consider this to be a positive direction to move towards, as Descartes does, it may be helpful to understand why, as well as what pursuit brings us closer to this state.
   Ultimately, the reason to engage ourselves in developing a complete moral outlook will need to be moral, and so something we discover on our own, so I will need to discuss how this duty may emerge.  But first, we may find this ideal of a completely morally determined orientation to the world attractive to us by repeating what Descartes says: "I would be wholly free although I was never in a state of indifference."  You would always experience yourself in action, and interested.  Also, you would be potentially attaining to higher levels of self-esteem; you would feel closer to having attained the goal of perfect virtue, since you would see it tested at all moments.
   (Recognition of a completely determined moral orientation as an ideal provides a new challenge to the validity of Schopenhauer's virtue of denial of the will to live, since Schopenhauer's argument arises out of thinking that we must necessarily find ourselves in a position of boredom when we are idle.)
   In considering how such a practical ideal for our moral outlook could emerge, we can consider how different understandings of nature and degrees of worldliness must always result in differences in moral judgments.  From this alone I assert that bringing humanity to a unity in moral matters depends upon agreement on our study and interpretation of nature (I will develop this topic elsewhere).  Our  fallibility  in interpreting our situation can call all our moral judgments into question, and so there seems to be a potential demand we could come to recognize morally (which I have come to feel) that clarifying the situations we are in to our utmost is important, but this duty right away conflicts with many other duties which may overrule it, particularly where we have special knowledge such as situations where we are inclined to lie.
   While I know that no theoretical argument can be given to support a moral judgment, I can at least hope to continue to articulate an interpretation of the situation that can heighten a concern with our understanding of the situation, and will hopefully foster this sense of duty to understand for ourselves in others.

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